STAK Activity

Sharing And Co-Creating References

This activity will help students to co-create a shared reference library that supports collaboration with fellow students and academics.

As students’ progress in their education, they will at some point become part of a professional academic community that extends beyond their institution. At that point, they may want to create a common reference library to support collaboration. Doing so requires students to work with others to formulate the rules by which everyone participates. In this activity, students learn how to work with others to define guidelines for a common reference library that supports collaboration. 


On completion of this activity, students will be able to: 

  • Formulate rules for sharing a reference library with an external professional community.
  • Understand the definitions of academic content and what the end results are.
  • Establish rules for validation and processing of imported references.
  • Understand the copyright rules that relate to external collaborations.
  • Participate in academic digital communities.


This activity is aimed at students who need to enter into collaborations with professionals/students outside their institution. It requires students to have prior knowledge of reference programs.


  • Ask students to decide what their common reference library will be used for, e.g., an assignment, article, or repository. 
  • Ask students to check which reference programs are available at their institution.  


Step 1
Split students into groups and ask each group to go though the following steps:
  • Define the purpose of their community, i.e., what is their common reference library to be used for?
  • Agree a common reference program that is accessible for all involved and can be used with the desired word processing program.
  • Assign an administrator to their library and to agree the rights that will be granted to group members.
Step 2
Ask students to create a common reference library with the chosen tool. The administrator will need to invite other participants to the reference library and assign the relevant rights.
Step 3
Ask the students to discuss whether there is a need for sub-libraries and how these should be built up. Sub-libraries can be used for sections, chapters, or sub-topics of the project.
Step 4
Ask the group to define common rules for importing references into their library, e.g., rules for assigning tags, and additional internal keywords. The group should arrive at some common terminology.
Step 5
Ask students to set the criteria for importing references, e.g., which databases can be used, which media may be included (books, articles, movies, websites, etc).
Step 6
Ask students to agree how the imported references will be validated, e.g., peer-reviewed. Also ask students to agree a reference style to use in the shared document.
Step 7
Ask students to agree rules to ensure that copyright is not infringed, i.e., that the import of full texts must be disabled in the common reference library. If the authors come from different institutions, their access to a full text will not be equal.
Step 8
Finally, ask students to document their discussions and choices in a shared document.
After the activity
After the activity, students can export references to the shared library to ensure that it is updated. Students need to make sure that the references are in the correct library/sub-library, and check that shared references can be used in the document. Finally, students should check that full text access is available, i.e. there can only be one link to the text in the reference library.


  • Prepare an example of a shared reference library and introduce various reference programs e.g., Endnote, Zotero, Mendeley. 
  • Prepare examples of source criteria and citation rules that students may consider using. 
  • Provide examples of different reference styles. 


Anne Bagger, Henrik Tang, Bo Søgaard Jensen, Copenhagen University Library, Denmark.


  • Educator prep: Moderate
  • Duration: 30+ mins

This activity is one of a series of activities from the STAK Project, focused on developing students' digital skills. 

Find out more

More activities

Introduction to...

Developing Students’ Digital Skills


Synchronous Written Feedback


Good Conduct In Online Education


Developing Online Professional Communities


Bibliography Tips and Tricks


Sort and Assess Your Search Results


Comment Effectively Together In Word


Mindmap Your Notes


Follow the Picture


Searching is a Journey of Discovery

Sharing And Co-Creating References